Amsterdam in December can be a hard place to visit because of the weather, but I think I've fallen in love with the city!
Going in December has the added bonus that the stunning city is beautifully and, oh so very tastefully, decorated for Christmas.
But my, did it rain on us ... Even wearing double layers (ie padded coat under a raincoat) we got so soaked on one of the days that it took me half an hour to warm up under a scorching shower in the hotel room.
A lot of walking (in the rain) and good food
Despite the weather, on our three-day mini-break, we walked miles, admiring the canal-side houses. When the weather got the better of us, we nipped into bars for a refreshing coffee or beer, which the Dutch excel at serving in cute little glasses at the perfect temperature. We also ate a lot of good food, including oysters, and various types of cheese (there was a restaurant which served just cheese plates and fondues).
Everywhere we went the food was excellent. Perhaps we were just lucky in picking the right kind of places, but if I were to compare Amsterdam to London, this is unusual. In London, you need to do your research before paying for a meal. I'm sad to say that here, in my home city, you will often get ripped off as a tourist. That makes me very sad, but it doesn't take away from the joy of eating so well in the Dutch capital.
Anne Frank House
On the first day, we went to the Anne Frank House, where the teenager hid with her family from the Nazis in the 1940s. It's a harrowing, small place, at the top of a narrow warehouse. In the museum built around the house, they also show recorded interviews with both Anne's father, the only member of the family who survived the concentration camps, and the few people who helped the family to hide. You could also see some of the real pages from Anne's famous diaries.
To me, a few of the saddest passages were when Anne noted that the reason she hadn't written anything for a couple of days was because nothing at all had happened. You can only imagine how simultaneously dull and scary life in an attic must have been for a 15-year-old. Another passage where she dreams of being a writer, or a journalist, struck a chord with me. Those words could have been plucked out of my diaries written when I was the same age as Anne.
We also visited the Rijksmuseum, where we took one of the audio tours, showing us the highlights of the place. This is definitely where we will come again, perhaps devoting one floor to each next visit. Both the Englishman and I decided we'd come to this city many more times in the future.
On our last day, we went to the Museum of Canals just before hopping on a boat tour. The museum was incredibly informative about when and why the canals were built. In the 17th century, the city council saw the need to expand the city, which was flourishing and growing due to immigration and trading. Not only did they decide to build the canals, but also planted trees along them, so that they would be aesthetically pleasing. Sadly, in December, the effect of those elms was a little lost on us ...
Still, we had a wonderful break in the 'Venice of the North' and will definitely be back!
Novels Set In Amsterdam
Visiting Amsterdam again has spurred a desire for me to read more books set in the city, and I thought I'd share with you some of my favourites.
One that I'm just about to start reading is A View Across the Rooftops by Suzanne Kelman. "A heartbreakingly beautiful story about courage against the odds", it's set during WW2, and I hope this will be the perfect read after the heart-wrenching visit to the Anne Frank Museum.
A few years ago, I read Book 2 in a contemporary crime series set in Amsterdam, and I've just downloaded the first in the series, A Cold Death in Amsterdam by Anja de Jager. these books are very much in the genre of Nordic Noir, I'm pleased to see that there are six books in the series, and I cannot wait to read them all.
If you're interested in reading about 1700th-century Amsterdam, I couldn't recommend The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton highly enough. Gifted to me by a good friend, I read this book a few years ago, but I can still remember exactly what happened. A hugely atmospheric novel, it's also full of surprising twists and turns.
Returning to contemporary Amsterdam, and a lighter – and seasonal – read, you wouldn't want a more romantic, or timely story than The Amsterdam Affair by Kate Frost. Kate is a friend of mine and I greatly admire her ability to get under the skin of any place she writes about. This novel is so full of the city I've just visited, that I might reread the book just to relive our short city break!
Have you read a book set in a city or place you've just visited? Let me know and I'll check it out.
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